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Authors: Stuart Neville

Tags: #Thriller, #Mystery, #Historical


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Stuart Neville
Soho Press (2012)
Rating: ★★★★☆
Tags: Mystery, Historical, Thriller
Mysteryttt Historicalttt Thrillerttt

Ireland 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German national is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate. The German is the third foreigner to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey wants the killing to end lest a shameful secret be exposed: the dead men were all Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government in the years following World War II.


A note from the killers is found on the dead German's corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler's favorite commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. The note simply says: "We are coming for you."


As Albert Ryan digs deeper into the case he discovers a network of former Nazis and collaborators, all presided over by Skorzeny from his country estate outside Dublin. When Ryan closes in on the killers, his loyalty is torn between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? Ryan learns that Skorzeny might be a dangerous ally, but he is a deadly enemy.

### Review

#### Q&A with Stuart Neville and James R. Benn

**Q. In one sentence, tell us what *Ratlines* is all about.**

A. *Ratlines* is about Dublin intelligence officer Albert Ryan, tasked with finding the killers of several Nazis granted sanctuary in Ireland after World War II.

**Q. Ratlines is your first foray into historical fiction. What was the different about writing a novel so heavily based on historical characters? Did your research or writing process vary from earlier works?**

A. The research process was entirely different for *Ratlines* than for any other novel I’ve written. With a present-day thriller, your research focuses on how things work; with a historical thriller, your focus is on how things were. For example, in my previous books, if I wanted to know how many rounds a Glock 17 can hold, I just downloaded the user manual from the manufacturer’s website. Or if I need to get the layout of a part of town right, I can use Google Maps.

Not so with *Ratlines*. Maps are of limited use because the layout of any given street can change, buildings can be renamed, and so on. There are events to get straight – for example, the Irish bus drivers’ strike of 1963 is referenced in the book, as is JFK’s visit to Ireland – but there are also societal issues to think about. For those, it really helped to talk to people who were around Dublin in the early 60s. For example, I described the book’s leading lady as wearing an off-the-shoulder dress in an early draft. Two beta readers pulled me up on that – such a dress would have been scandalous in 60s Ireland. Now she keeps her shoulders covered.

**Q. Irish Justice Minister Charles Haughey is a real-life character who appears in *Ratlines*. What should American readers, and others who have not heard of him, know about Charles Haughey? It seems that Irish and English readers have a reaction to the name. Is there a comparable American politician that might help us Yanks put him in context?**

A. Charles Haughey is probably the most controversial figure in 20th Century Irish politics. He was a charismatic man, loved by many, but also hated. He was Irish prime minister three times, but ended his career in scandal when decades of corruption were exposed. I guess the nearest equivalent in American politics I can think of is a cross between Richard Nixon and Joseph P Kennedy Sr.

Haughey was Minister for Justice at the time Ratlines is set, and as such was responsible for asylum seekers, including the Nazis and Axis collaborators who were in Ireland at the time. He’s also known to have had an strange love-hate relationship with the British. He had the hatred of Britain that one would expect from an ardent Irish republican like Haughey, but he also seemed to regard himself as part of some imagined aristocracy, despite his lowly background, and identified himself with the English gentry.

**Q. Otto Skorzeny—a real-life scar-faced Nazi commando—also has a major role. I wonder if this larger-than-life character ever threatened to take over the story. He's a guy you couldn't make up.**

A. Otto Skorzeny was a real-life Bond villain, and truly larger than life. He could very easily have been cartoonish, and I couldn’t help but play up some of his more theatrical quirks, including a fencing duel with the novel’s protagonist. He was really a gift of a character.

**Q. Breton nationalists in Ireland? Who knew? Célestin Lainé is another remarkable, if unbalanced, real-life character. How did you find out about him, and are there still such guys living out their old age in Ireland?**

A. I learned about Lainé initially through a documentary called *Ireland’s Nazis* by journalist Cathal O’Shannon. I dug further into him through Daniel Leach’s book, *Fugitive Ireland*, also about Nazis and Axis collaborators harboured by the Irish state. The Célestin Lainé in Ratlines is only very loosely based on the real life figure. When Lainé came to Ireland, he lived under his Breton name, Neven Henaff, but because the character in my book only really shares his history, I kept his original name. Similarly, the character of Catherine Beauchamp is based on Breton nationalist Francene Rozec, but only loosely, so I used one of her pen names for the book.

**Q. Your previous books feature Jack Lennon, a Catholic detective in Northern Ireland. *Ratlines* features Albert Ryan, a Protestant cop in Dublin. What draws you to the outsider as main character?**

A. That’s a difficult question, and it might take a psychologist to answer it properly! I guess one theory might be that the reader is always an outsider to the world they’re reading about, so it helps if the character whose eyes they’re seeing through is also an outsider. It allows them to move through the story in a more dispassionate way, with a more objective view. I’m not sure if that’s really true, though…

### Review

*Praise for ****Ratlines***


"*Ratlines* is a belter: fast, furious, bloody and good."
**—Ian Rankin**,** *New York Times* bestselling author of *Exit Music***


"The current master of neo-noir detective fiction."
**—*Boston Globe***


"The plot reminds me of Jack Higgins at his very best.... This is a first-rate story that seizes the imagination, and never lets go."
***—Daily Mail *(UK)**


"The author's clean, direct prose, well-utilised research, intricate plotting and deep characterisation all add up to a seriously impressive piece of crime fiction, that lingers long in the memory."
***—The Independent (UK)***


"A Nazi-hunting thriller writhing with double and triple-crosses and a supremely colourful cast."
***—Metro* (UK)**


“Thrilling.... Readers will hope to see more of Ryan, a formidable yet damaged hero."**
—*Publishers Weekly*, STARRED REVIEW
"Set in a time when James Bond was becoming popular, Neville's lean, mean prose tells a brutal story that's the opposite of 007...but no less captivating."


* * *

"Neville writes wonderfully, setting the scene in precise, economical prose; pitting well-defined, historically inspired characters in opposition to each other; and tangling the plotlines tantalizingly... With a character this strong, we want to see him fight to the finish."


"The best thrillers usually have the protagonist in a moral dilemma, and the dilemma here is a doozy… A brilliant character study of a man of real honour."
***—**The Globe and Mail


***"By the time I finished it, I was exhausted. I couldn’t put it down."
*****—**Toronto Life Magazine**


“Stuart Neville’s books just get better and better and *Ratlines* is simply superb. A shocking moment in history is the backdrop to a hugely gripping thriller, and I really hope we see Albert Ryan again.”
—**Mark Billingham, bestselling author of *Rush of Blood***


"A great book and the rest of the 2013 books will have to work hard to top it."
***—*Jon Jordan, *Crimespree Magazine***


“Wildly entertaining, *Ratlines* is a superb mystery but in addition, a spotlight on a slice of Irish history largely ignored. This is a complex mystery told in the exceptional style that Stuart Neville has made his own. Jameson and Nazis, Irish rebel songs and Charles Haughey, it's a bold and brilliant blend.”
—**Ken Bruen, Shamus Award winning author of *The Guard***


“Hitler, Charlie Haughey and JFK? Now that’s what I call a set-up.”
**—Declan Burke, award-winning author of *Slaughter’s Hound***


"Neville, whose debut, *The Ghosts of Belfast*, won the 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller, concocts a believable plot with an intriguing protagonist torn between duty to country and his distaste for Nazi criminals. Fans of Jack Higgins and Ken Follett will enjoy this novel."
***—Library Journal***


“Another moody winner mixes Nazis into Neville's usual Irish noir.”
***—Kirkus Reviews****


*"Neville writes wonderfully, setting the scene in precise, economical prose; pitting well-defined, historically inspired characters in opposition to each other; and tangling the plotlines tantalizingly... With a character this strong, we want to see him fight to the finish. "


"The setup is real history and the rest is "just a story." But what a story it is!"


"Gritty... A lot of great visuals."
**—Good Morning Texas**


“Hoo boy what a story!”
***—New York Journal of Books***


**Praise for Stuart Neville**
“Neville’s novel is a coldly lucid assessment of the fragility of the Irish peace ... a rare example of legitimate noir fiction.”
—***The New York Times Book Review***
* *
“Stuart Neville belongs to a younger generation of writers for whom the region's darkest years are history—but that history endures, as his first novel, 'The Ghosts of Belfast,' shockingly demonstrates.... This noir thriller plays out in a Belfast that, even in summer sunshine, remains oppressively gray. The clannishness of its inhabitants is vividly evoked.... A riot scene, one of the novel's best, captures a new generation's appetite for blood and an old veteran's nostalgia.... In scene after gruesome scene, Neville attempts to persuade us that this time around, with this repentant murderer, the killing is different.”
—***Washington Post***
* *
“Neville's tightly wound, emotionally resonant account of an ex-IRA hit man's struggle to conquer his past, displays an acute understanding of the true state of Northern Ireland, still under the thumb of decades of violence and terrorism.”
—***Los Angeles Times*
“Stuart Neville is Ireland’s answer to Henning Mankell.”
—**Ken Bruen**
“*The Ghosts of Belfast* is a tale of revenge and reconciliation shrouded in a bloody original crime thriller.... Brilliant.”
—***Milwaukee Journal Sentinel***
* *
“Neville’s debut novel is tragic, violent, exciting, plausible, and compelling.... *The Ghosts of Belfast* is dark, powerful, insightful, and hard to put down.”


“Neville slowly ratchets up the tension—and the violence—until each page practically twangs with suspense.”
—***Publishers Weekly***

Also by Stuart Neville

The Ghosts of Belfast
Stolen Souls

Copyright © 2013 Stuart Neville

All rights reserved.

First published in the United States in 2013
Soho Press, Inc.
853 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Ratlines / Stuart Neville.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-1-61695-205-1
1. Ex-Nazis—Ireland—Fiction. 2. Murder—Investigation—Fiction.
3. Ireland—History—20th century—Fiction. I. Title.
PR6114.E943R38 2013


For Isabel Emerald Neville



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Title Page




Author’s Note

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